Power plant foes back Roe after statements claiming plant construction workers would endanger students

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The President of the AFL-CIO of Delaware, New Castle County Council President Christopher Bullock, the NAACP, and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists want the University of Delaware Newark Residents Against the Power Plant to disassociate themselves from remarks made in  a letter from power plant foe Amy Roe.

Instead, the group backed Roe, calling criticism over her  remarks in a letter  a personal attack.

Click on the following link for the letter: trustee letter

In the  letter to the University of Delaware Board of Trustees, whose ranks include Gov. Jack Markell,  Roe, made many claims about the environmental dangers from the proposed $1.1 billion project. Roe, an unsuccessful candidate for Newark mayor and her associate Jen Wallace, have often been the public face of the no power plant group.

In one paragraph, Roe claims that those working on building the Data Center at the former Chrysler plant would pose a threat to University of Delaware students, stating, “I now worry for the safety of the young women who attend UD.”

AFL CIO  President Samuel Lathem, a longtime worker at Chrysler before heading the labor organization, said he was hurt by Roe’s remarks and said her statements harken back to an ugly time in the state. African American Chrysler workers, for many years, suffered from the effects of segregated housing and other forms of discrimination that forced long commutes to the plant.

“Dr. Roe’s inflammatory and hyperbolic letter insults so many of the good people of Newark and Delaware, people who work with their hands, in blue-collar industries, who might or might not be supportive of the Data Center, but certainly do not deserve to be treated as some type of unequal citizen, unworthy of a seat at a public hearing or a job in their own community.”

In her letter, Roe talked about intimidation by union members at a Newark Board of Adjustment hearing and that some members smelled of alcohol.She went on to say that the construction workers could present a menace to young women on Main Street, mentioning a rape on Main Street in the 1980s and carrying pepper spray for her personal protection.

New Castle County Council President Chris Bullock calls the letter insulting.

“Dr. Roe’s letter represents the absolute worst kind of class-based elitism, one that characterizes construction workers as some type of dangerous, uncivilized animal to be avoided and even separated from the educated class. Amazingly, she goes on to wonder if pepper spray will be needed to protect herself from the shadowy electrician, laborer, or boilermaker who may do, Lord knows what, to her and others like her,” said Bullock. “Jim Crow laws have long past and Dr. Roe’s desire to segregate citizens based on class and occupation is not only upsetting, it is damaging and un-American.”

Lathem and Bullock called on the University of Delaware and the membership of Newark Residents Against the Power Plant to officially and publicly condemn Roe’s remarks.

That did not happen, with the group issuing the following statement that backed Roe and contained no indications of its views regarding the conduct of construction workers.

“We contend that the baseless and unsubstantiated claims are a personal attack and nothing more. They are not rooted in reality and are a desperate attempt by supporters of the power plant to take attention away from the facts we have been uncovering and documenting about this project. We will continue fighting this power plant based on its own lack of merit and sharing what we find with the public, elected officials and the University of Delaware Trustees and administration. We refuse to participate in personal attacks and instead choose to focus on our fact-based campaign against the construction of this power plant.” 

Gov. Jack Markell, who received Roe’s letter,  also took issue with  her remarks.

“As a member of the Board of Trustees, I know that Newark thrives as an economically and racially diverse community. The suggestion that the presence of tradesmen at a potential campus construction site would somehow threaten public safety is both insulting to working people and very much at odds with the diverse and welcoming community where I grew up. I am glad that the AFL-CIO and other leaders denounced that kind of rhetoric and I hope we can return civility to this debate.”

Markell’s thoughts were echoed by Ken Grant, who has been serving as spokesman for The Data Centers.

“We stand with the hard working men, women, and families who have been maligned by this ignorant and hate-filled letter,” Grant stated. “Everyone involved with the data center project is troubled by the revelation that a significant motivation for opposition to this plan stems from such an irrational fear and we hope this is only one person’s offensive reasoning and not reflective of others in our community.”

Roe did not  respond to an email seeking comment. Roe and organized labor have clashed in the past over the renewal of the environmental permitting for the Delaware City Refinery.

Supporters of the Data Centers project have long suspected an undercurrent of elitism among members of Citizens Against the Newark Power Plant. In comments before the City Council one critic claimed that the $40,000 a year salaries of permanent workers at the site  would not make a sizable contribution to the Newark economy. There were also claims that jobs would be filled by outsiders with no ties to the city.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. In a PRIVATE letter to the University of Delaware Board of Trustees, Ms. Roe expressed concern about people who attended a public meeting and were intimidating to others in attendance and appeared to be publicly drunk. How does that translate to “elitism” and racism? Why would the County Council President be involved in such a farce of a press conference? Who on the Board of Trustees or staff leaked her private letter?

  2. This is a despicable and baseless attack on an individual simply because she is effective at what she does–in this case opposing the proposed Newark power plant–and you happen to disagree with her. Did you read the full letter written by Dr. Roe before clearly taken a passage out of context?

    And I’m sorry, where in what you have quoted does Dr. Roe mention anything about any race?? You’re obvious implication of racism, mentioning segregation of American American Chrysler workers etc., is based on what? That people smelled of alcohol? That they could be menacing to young women? These things lead you to assume that those whom she is referring to just must be African American? This is utterly offensive, racist and disgusting.

  3. Yes, I have read the letter. The argument can be made that the letter does not contain racist comments and I know Amy well enough to know she does not harbor such sentiments. However, talk about personal safety is often a “dog whistle” code term for criminal stereotypes of African Americans. It can’t be disputed that the passage paints organized labor with a broad brush by claiming that construction workers will pose a danger to female University of Delaware students. As the son of a member of the United Steel Workers I find that passage to be offensive. – Doug Rainey

    • Listen to yourself. “Talk about personal safety is often a ‘dog whistle’ code term for criminal stereotypes of African Americans.” You are stretching yourself so thin that you’ve nearly become transparent.

      • Ms. Roe was obviously referring to construction workers regardless of race, but she also stumbled into an area where race baiting politicians have often summoned up images of criminal activity that too many of us link to a certain race or ethic group. It’s simply a sad part of our history.

        • Doug, stop trying to equate or draw parallels between Amy Roe and racism. Not only is it completely untrue and unfounded (and you know it too if indeed you know Amy), it’s turning that word into a rhetorically bankrupt part of our language. This is a dangerous game because racism and racist are extremely valuable when applied appropriately. When misapplied, as in this instance, you’re watering it down to the point of meaninglessness and diminishing it’s necessary force.

  4. What the letter said is blown out of proportion. What remains is that personal attacks aside, the power plant is a bad idea for Newark. It will still emit tons of pollution and damage people’s health. So let’s focus on the real problem.

  5. I was subjected to these same bullying tactics (baseless accusations, making my address and phone number public, etc.) when I was politically active in New Jersey. It didn’t make me go away, and trust me, it won’t make Dr. Roe go away either. As Margaret Cassling suggested in her post, this is simply dangled as a distraction from the real issues.

    • Good point. Ms. Roe’s address and email information has been deleted. But your post does not answer the question of why she chose portray an entire employment category as possibly dangerous.

  6. Hi Doug, I believe from the sample she observed during the meeting; she was able to come to that conclusion. I understand these union workers want work, but move selfish reasons aside and realize this is an idiotic idea to build an unnecessary power plant.

  7. Having just read the letter, I didn’t see anything racist or elitist in it. In all honesty though, I don’t believe the safety of the community would be jeopardized if the workers who attended the meeting were employed at the data center. But that said, if we’re going to advocate for civility – and I’m all for that – I don’t see why the union members get a pass for behaving the way Dr. Roe and many others say they did in the meeting she referred to. It certainly sounds as though their intent was to suppress voices who dared to oppose them, and that sort of thuggish conduct is unacceptable. All of that aside, however, there are just so many substantive reasons to be against this thing. How in the world does it make any sense for a dirty power generation arrangement to be locked into place for 75 years when it arguably isn’t even necessary to begin with? The only thing I can see that it would do for Newark is foreclose it from taking advantage of the technological and environmental advances in energy production that are certain to happen over such a long period of time. And why should Newark be saddled with the presence of a company that submitted an application for a zoning verification that was rife with material misstatements? Is TDC unethical, or just unable to add? Everything about this company sounds bush league, a conclusion Rowan University apparently made in short order. Everyone is for jobs, but not at any cost, and the residents of Newark deserve far better than TDC’s power plant with a data center attached.

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